Philadelphia Archdiocese Sells Home Used by Senior Priests

by Michael Gambino

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – A vacation house at the South Jersey shore used by generations of elderly priests was sold at auction by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for $4.5 million.

Steve and Ilene Berger of Newtown Square won the bidding at $4.125 million for Villa St. Joseph by the Sea, a 19-room, 9,800-square-foot mansion in Ventnor, N.J., which has been owned by the archdiocese since 1963. They added 10% in sale costs, bringing the final price to $4.5 million.

The half-acre property could be re-zoned up to six lots and the house razed for multiple units, but the Bergers plan to renovate the home and to invite archdiocesan priests for an annual reunion.

“An auction like this is certainly a new experience for the archdiocese,” said Donna Farrell, Philadelphia’s archdiocesan spokeswoman.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome and wish the Bergers and all of their family and friends many years of happiness in the home.”

Although assessed at $6.2 million, the home was placed on auction for quick sale instead of on the open market to help close a projected $6 million budget gap of the archdiocese this year.

Max Spann, whose firm managed the auction, said the strategy “proved to be the quickest and most efficient way for the archdiocese to sell this property at a price the market was willing to bear.”

Built in 1905 with 11 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, the house features 175 feet of beach frontage, covered porches and decks with views of the ocean, beach and boardwalk, plus a large accompanying garden.

The sale of the home will close in October.